Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 MLB trade deadline is less than a month away. And it has become clear the New York Yankees will not only be buyers, but they will mean business come August 1.

New hitting coach Sean Casey awaits any new hitter. Pitching isn’t a priority, but might be a good idea if the right name becomes available. Until Aaron Judge comes back, the Yankees need to operate like a fringe team gearing up for a push.

Unchartered territory indeed.

Lucky for general manager Brian Cashman, the trade market hasn’t fully formed. No one player or pitcher has set themselves apart as a prime deadline target. That can change in three weeks and Cashman, for all his faults, has kept his job for 26 years for a reason.

If he wants to get ahead of the market, checking out these players would be a good start.

Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks. Pitching is the Yankees’ greatest strength and Nestor Cortes will be healthy soon, so adding an arm at the deadline isn’t likely. However, Luis Severino isn’t getting any better and New York can’t just trot him out every fifth day hoping he does. It’s also important to note that Severino is an impending free agent. So, Kendrick. He’s on the older side at 33 but has a 3.03 ERA on the year. What’s astounding is he’s accomplished this throwing a fastball, sinker, and changeup, and his average velocity hasn’t risen above 87.4 mph. Hendricks might as well be a modern day Mike Mussina, even if he’s gotten lucky with a .246 BABIP.

Hendricks makes sense for the money too. He’s only earning $14 million this year and the Yankees can cover the rest. If things don’t work out, New York can decline his $16 million club option and buy him out for $5.5 million. Better to see if Hendricks’ stuff can play in the AL East than keep waiting for Luis Severino to right himself.

Cubs OF Cody Bellinger. It also helps that Hendricks could be packaged with his lefty-swinging teammate, who we’ve recently discussed as a trade target. Bellinger’s swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium’s short porch and he also has family ties to the Bronx. His father, Clay, was a utility player who won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000.

If there’s any player the Yankees should be targeting at this point, it’s easily Bellinger. He can play all three outfield positions and also some first base. His own resurgence this year has largely been from good luck, especially with a career-high soft contact rate at 22.2%.

But the Yankees have officially entered no risk, no reward territory. The lineup needs to get better regardless of Judge’s recovery or the new hitting coach. If adding someone like Bellinger means sparking the lineup and only losing someone like Estevan Florial? That’s a deal that can be made today.

Giants OF Joc Pederson. Sticking with left-handed outfielders, Pederson also checks a lot of the various Yankees boxes. He draws a lot of walks and has a swing perfect for that short porch. He only has eight home runs this year, but also missed time with a hand injury. Pederson also isn’t a great fielder and has primarily been the Giants’ designated hitter this year.

Defense is indeed important, but the Yankees’ priority right now has to be scoring runs. Jake Bauers has a -7 defensive runs saved (DRS) in the outfield and the Yankees kept playing him there every day before he got hurt. Want to know why? Because even manager Aaron Boone and Cashman realized his bat mattered more.

Joc Pederson is no different and is an impending free agent. Cashman should at least check in, especially with veteran Giants executive Brian Sabean back on his staff.

Twins OF Max Kepler. Here we have who might be the biggest risk of all. Kepler hit .252 with 36 juiced ball homers in just 134 games in 2019 and has since fallen off a cliff. He’s batting .207 with 12 home runs this season and batting just .218 since 2020. Kepler is also prone to strikeouts and has never played left field, where New York would need him.

At worst, he’s yet another Joey Gallo. Except Kepler’s splits tell an interesting story. He’s been better on the road than at home two of the last three years. He’s clearly trying to recapture the power behind his breakout mirage in 2019 and Target Field is just too big a ballpark. Yankee Stadium seems a far better fit if Cashman can look past the walks. The financials make even more sense. Kepler is earning $8.5 million this year and has a $10 million club option for 2024. If the Yankees decide to move on, his buyout is a cool $1 million.

Padres OF Juan Soto. This is a big, big if for several reasons. The stacked Padres are falling out of the Wild Card race and might sell unless they run hot out of the break. Soto is 24, earning $24 million this year, and also has a year of arbitration left. He’s batting .265 with 15 home runs this year and leading MLB in walks.

If he’s available, he won’t be cheap. Just so we’re clear, this is all purely speculative. The Yankees have not been publicly linked to Soto this season. But you have to figure Cashman will at least call Padres GM AJ Preller if the star outfielder is available.

What’s more intriguing is how much the Yankees would give up in a deal. It’s a prime opportunity for Stanton to waive his no-trade clause and go home to California. This also frees up payroll for the Yankees, though they’d probably cover some of his remaining salary.

But this is all a big what-if and, much like every other player we’ve discussed, pure speculation. It’s not so much how linked the Yankees are to each in trade talks. More about who’s a good trade fit at this current time.

One way or another, the Yankees need to add someone who not only helps the team, but rockets them forward.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.