As the Philadelphia Phillies' offseason breaks into the new year and heads for the homestretch, the team has little left to accomplish. They've already taken care of all their top priorities—they've re-signed Jimmy Rollins, added a power bat off the left side in Jim Thome, found a versatile, slugging backup in Ty Wigginton and have strengthened their outfield depth by signing Laynce Nix.
Not to mention, the Phils have also bolstered their bullpen by adding All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon and (possible) lefty specialist Dontrelle Willis.
However, arguably the biggest question mark of the Phillies' offseason still looms among the team's current uncertainties, and that is whether or not Cole Hamels will receive a contract extension sometime before the start of the 2012 season.
Hamels, who is slated to become the best left-handed starting pitcher and perhaps the best overall starter on the open market next offseason, could make upwards of $100 million should he reach free agency after the 2012 season. It's now GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s job to take care of business and do whatever he can to lock up Hamels for the most affordable contract possible.
Speaking of the Phillies' ace starting pitchers, Roy Oswalt is currently a free agent and his chances of re-signing in Philadelphia are presently slim to none. It rekindles the fire that was set off last offseason when Cliff Lee returned to Philly—the team had four ace starters, the best starting rotation in baseball and possibly even the best rotation of all time.
Fans and media reporters alike wondered how long the "Four Aces," or "R2C2," would last. Well, it looks like right now it will have lasted only one year, and the urgency to keep Hamels under contract becomes even more dire with a decrease in starting pitching depth following the seemingly inevitable departure of Oswalt.
It also begs the question as to how long the trio of Halladay, Lee and Hamels, three of the top five finishers in the 2011 NL Cy Young Award voting, will last.
Should Hamels not receive or turn down a contract extension offer from the Phillies, the likelihood of him returning shrinks significantly upon reaching free agency.
In this slideshow, we'll examine all possibilities of how long the current top of the Phillies rotation could last, and we'll make a prediction for each of the three starting pitchers and speculate how long they (and the trio itself) could remain in Phillies' pinstripes.