Rockies face choice of keeping Trevor Story or Nolan Arenado

The Rockies are approaching a critical crossroads involving third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story, their two best position players.

The contract status of the two stars, the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic on baseball and Arenado’s rocky relationship with general manager Jeff Bridich have converged to create an imperfect storm. How the front office deals with the situation this offseason will affect the franchise in 2021 and far beyond.

And it will tug at the heart of Rockies fans who’ve seen Story and Arenado blossom into arguably the premier left side of the infield in the majors. Because it seems unlikely, at this point, that the Rockies will be able to keep both stars.

Story, who’s owed $18.5 million in 2021, is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. He understands that his future in Colorado is a question mark.

“I’m aware of the situation that’s coming up,” Story said at the end of the Rockies’ second consecutive losing season. “I love being here. These guys drafted and developed me, and it’s fun playing here. So I try not to think too far ahead. I’m always the guy who’s going to cross that bridge when it gets here.”

Arenado, who’s owed a whopping $35 million next season, can opt out of his contract after 2021. While it once seemed certain that he would do so — or that the Rockies would trade him in anticipation of that happening — the pandemic has muddied the waters.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” Arenado told ESPN last Tuesday after he won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove Award. “I think this year will be interesting. I’m hopeful that wherever (happens), I wanna play for a winner. If that’s in Colorado, that’s great. And, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about; I just wanna win.”

Choppy financial waters

The Rockies, like most teams in the majors, are navigating choppy financial waters. Former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said on MLB Network that he expects two-thirds of teams not to be spending big in free agency.

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Count the Rockies among that group.

While the team doesn’t disclose its financial information, the 60-game season that played out with no fans attending games at Coors Field cost the Rockies well north of $100 million. According to sports industry analysts Team Marketing Report, the Rockies lost $174.7 million.