Rockies’ Trevor Story entering historic territory, even greater unknown

September 2, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A slide to the outfield side of second base was all it took for Trevor Story to set another historic mark for the Colorado Rockies.

With his first-inning dash Friday, Story became the first player in franchise history to hit 30-or-more home runs and swipe 20-or-more bags in multiple seasons. He also joined Alex Rodriguez as only the second shortstop in league history to accomplish the feat. Just last season, the shortstop launched 37 long balls and stole 27 bases.

The record once again put the future of the franchise at the forefront. Story has been the ideal replacement for Troy Tulowitzki. After 2021, he’ll be eligible for free agency – the same year Nolan Arenado can get out of his eight-year extension.

Questions severely outweigh answers for the franchise moving forward.

In his Rockies’ career, Story has surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. After his first two years in the majors, two trends were evident: the strikeouts that haunted him in the minors weren’t going away and neither was the prodigious power.

In both 2016 and 2017, Story struck out in 31.3 and 34.4 percent of his at-bats respectively. The latest pair of breakout years have shown that he’s remedied the problems.

As the strikeouts have dropped to under 30 percent, production has increased. The refined aggression has given Bud Black reason to put Story atop the lineup – a spot he’s been at for the last nine games.

Already, Story’s production is on pace to rival Tulowitzki’s.

Through his first four seasons in the majors, Tulowitzki had fewer hits, home runs and runs driven in than Story.

The fate of Tulowitzki with the Rockies wasn’t a good one. In his final three-plus years before being traded, he only played in 100-or-more games one time. A package of Jeff Hoffman, Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco was enough for the franchise to bid adieu.

In those same years that ended Tulowitzki’s tenure, the Rockies went 237-323. This year, they’re on pace for a 68-94 mark.

At the end of his stint with the Rockies, injuries became overwhelming for Tulowitzki. The traits that made him a superstar were still evident. It just wasn’t enough to overcome the franchise’s sinking.

In 2019, similarly, Story’s latest outburst hasn’t been enough to overcome an inept rotation. That same rotation isn’t set for major upgrades. The Rockies are severely limited in the pitching market, both internally and externally.

The Rockies are going to be forced to rely on Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez to buoy the rotation. This year, the trio showed they may not be able to. Inversely, 2018 showed that they could. The dichotomous results could largely decide the franchise’s fate.

If the rotation once again falters next year, Arenado would have little reason to stay after the 2021 season. The third baseman departing the franchise would undoubtedly result in full-on collapse.

Originally from Texas, Story has no hometown connection to the Rockies. Nearly every team in the league could use the infielder’s skill set.

Both Arenado and Tulowitzki make up the small group of players that have received a headline-worthy extension from the Rockies. A departure from the former would make it two times in as many tries that a franchise pillar has left, despite heavy compensation.

If Story spurned the opportunity to go elsewhere, would the Rockies dive in once again? Entering the Oakland Athletics’ zone of baseball – utilizing young players and cheap veterans, but trading stars before they get paid – could be the next option.

Other Rockies’ standouts like Gray and Scott Oberg are set to enter free agency after 2021. The club’s misplaced deals with Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Daniel Murphy end in the same offseason – if the club picks up each of their options after 2020.

A blend of Marquez, David Dahl and whatever talent has come up through the system would headline the 2022 season.

Losing both Arenado and Story in the same offseason would be a severe blow. The contending window would close for the foreseeable future. It’s something they have to prepare for, though the current front office could be gone by then if the slide continues.

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