Even as baseball has seen a return to long, massive free-agent deals over the last two offseasons, the league's most intelligent organizations value their farm systems more and more. It's overstating it to say a good farm was once a mere luxury, but a loaded system is at least considered a much closer link to a World Series, between both call-ups (Buster Posey is a recent case) and as currency to polish off a roster -- just as the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers have done this winter.
What's more, a GM's getting canned for "letting a system go to waste" is now greeted with nodding approval in many circles.
But what components make a farm system great? It's a mix, based on continually growing and recycling talent, spending on the draft, mining the international market, building depth that matters, and targeting impact talent.