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Dodgers hoping to ease payroll obligations

MLB.com @kengurnick

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Dodgers aim to trim last year's payroll of $240 million to reduce exposure to escalating luxury tax rates and potential Draft penalties. The payroll threshold that triggers the initial tax bracket is $197 million.

They already have $210 million committed to 2018, nearly $50 million of that in salaries to right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left-handed starter Scott Kazmir. Moving any of those players, and any portion of those salaries, has been on management's agenda at the Winter Meetings that close Thursday.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Dodgers aim to trim last year's payroll of $240 million to reduce exposure to escalating luxury tax rates and potential Draft penalties. The payroll threshold that triggers the initial tax bracket is $197 million.

They already have $210 million committed to 2018, nearly $50 million of that in salaries to right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left-handed starter Scott Kazmir. Moving any of those players, and any portion of those salaries, has been on management's agenda at the Winter Meetings that close Thursday.

"We don't have necessarily a very specific target; it's just with respect to the luxury tax line, there's a lot of benefits to getting under, both baseball and financial," general manager Farhan Zaidi said.

"So there are different paths you can go down if you stay over that, and what it's going to take to get under it. So that's definitely added a layer of complexity to the offseason for us so far. Whether it's trades or free agency, it's about assessing the impact. You know what? That's why the rule's there.

"I think it's less than 50/50 we'll be announcing anything here," Zaidi said. "We have some things in the works that could materialize in the next week or so."

The tax rules were stiffened in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and they got the attention of the Dodgers, who (other than an unsuccessful bid for Shohei Ohtani) have been transactional bystanders after taking the Astros to Game 7 before losing the World Series.

The 34-year-old McCarthy is the most moveable of the three mentioned. He is owed $12 million in the last year of a four-year, $48 million contract. He was limited to 19 regular-season appearances in 2017 because of injuries, going 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA. He was a surprise addition to the World Series roster after being omitted from two earlier postseason series, allowed a game-losing home run in extra innings of Game 2 and wasn't seen again.

McCarthy's medical history will fill up a hard drive. It includes Tommy John surgery four starts into his Dodgers career. In 2017 alone, he went on the disabled list three times -- for a dislocated left shoulder, right knee tendinitis and a finger blister. In 2016, he was stricken with a case of the yips that carried over to 2017. But he seemed to finish up this season healthy, if rusty.

The 35-year-old Gonzalez is owed $21.5 million in the final season of a seven-year, $154 million contract that the Dodgers absorbed in the 2012 megatrade with Boston. The Dodgers already have eaten the final year of Carl Crawford's contract from that trade.

Gonzalez's 2017 season was ruined by a herniated disk in his back. His fill-in, Cody Bellinger, was the unanimous National League Rookie of the Year. Gonzalez's postseason trip out of the country, then reappearance for the World Series, created a distraction. He has a no-trade clause, and even if that hurdle is cleared it's unlikely to happen without proving his health in Spring Training. Club officials have said they expect him to be a Dodger.

Kazmir, 34 next month, is a complete unknown for 2018, other than the $15 million he'll receive in the final year of a three-year deal. He lost his velocity in 2016 and never pitched for the Dodgers in 2017. The club couldn't find a physical reason to explain it, officially putting him on the disabled list with what was termed a left hip strain.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy