Strike 2: Now that Todd Helton has become the second Colorado Rockie to be selected for Baseball’s Hall of Fame, who will be the next Rockie to get a plaque in Cooperstown?

The easy answer might be: “He hasn’t been born yet.”

That would be understandable, but incorrect.

The next plaque to go up in Cooperstown featuring a player wearing a Colorado Rockies cap will be Nolan Arenado.

Plenty of observers will be quick to point out the messy breakup between the Rockies and their superstar third baseman back in the winter of 2021. But time heals, and Jeff Bridich is long gone.

Here’s the deal: Arenado played eight stellar seasons in purple pinstripes, winning eight consecutive Gold Glove Awards, four Silver Sluggers, making five National League All-Star games and hitting 235 of his (so far) 325 career home runs. Since his trade to St. Louis, the superstar third baseman has made three All-Star games, won two Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger.

So thus far, his accumulated numbers as a Rockie far outdistance his stats as a Cardinal.

Of course Nolan’s career is far from being over, but he will turn 33 years old early in the coming season. He has several more good-to-great years in front of him, but unless that means five more stellar seasons in St. Louis, his career numbers as a Cardinal are unlikely to match what he did here.

Of course, if the Cards regroup and suddenly become a championship club, and Nolan is able to earn the ring he so badly wants, that would change things. But how likely is that to happen?

The Cardinals had a rough 2023 – just like the Rockies – finishing 20 games under .500. This is not an organization that’s used to, or accepts, losing. There are already rumors about St. Louis trading former MVP Paul Goldschmidt before the deadline this summer in an effort to jump start a quick rebuild. And if Goldschmidt goes, can Arenado be far behind?

Nolan has four years and over $100 million left on his current contract with a St. Louis organization that – just like the Rockies – is suddenly feeling the financial pinch brought on by the demise of their local TV contract.

The chances of Nolan playing out his Cardinals contract are slim.

What then? A couple seasons with the Dodgers or Giants or Yankees? Perhaps. Then again, who’s to say he doesn’t opt to follow the same path as Matt Holiday – bury the hatchet and return to Coors Field to put the finishing touches on his Hall of Fame career? What if he’s got a shot at 500 career homers three years from now?

Keep in mind that by that point, several more of the Rockies highly touted prospects will have reached the show, and perhaps made the team relevant in the NL West once again. Anything’s possible. Nothing like having a seasoned veteran return home to show them the way.

This could very easily be what happens. Then there’d be no doubt about which logo Arenado would be wearing on his cap in Cooperstown.

As Rockies skipper Bud Black likes to say, “That’s baseball.”

Stay tuned.