They are basically at the lux cap, which makes it tough to replace VV and Pivetta and even caused some reasonably good vet relievers and bench guys to be released.
You are correct, the problem is the farm, which should be supplying a steady stream of low-cost plus performers. So, why have we failed? I think it has been a failure of scouting for the top players.
When we finally bottomed out and 'earned' the number one draft position, we struck out on our top 3 picks and the above slot #11. That draft set us back a ton.
Sal hasn't been getting the job done, not even close. His last big hit was Ruiz, who was an older, special case opportunity he found in Mexico. On the top July 2 17-year olds, he's basically whiffed. Sixto may be a big success story, but not for us.
The latest Baseball America chronicles the LA stars who have come out of (other) team's July 2 signings -- many stars who were in MLB by age 20-21-22. Encarnacion not a small bonus, Ortiz a huge bonus. Look at the talent other teams signed for bonuses in this range in those years. Other teams have multiple stars from their international signings. We don't have a single one. That is the BIG KILLER of Phillies chances. We spent the bonus $, came up dry, now we need to spend bigger $ for vets to fill the gap that low-cost LA guys under 7-years of team control should be filling. That and the 'Moniak draft year' are the killers of this team and what drives the need to sign expensive FA. WE STUNK AT SCOUTING (and Moniak was in large measure down to Gillick and a black mark to end his career on).
If you screw up as badly as the Phillies have, for as many years as the Phillies have stunk at scouting and player development, then there really is VERY LITTLE that any GM can do to fix the problem just dealing with the MLB roster. The scouting/development woes are where the battle was lost.
Our last star out of the system was Nola. Still high hopes for Kingery, but really hasn't borne out those hopes yet. I remain optimistic on Howard and Bohm. A maybe on Stott. That seems about it for a while. It's just not nearly enough.
The drafting seems to be improving, but the farm woes have led to a lot of missing primo draft picks, which will bite us down the road.
It's sad. We're a big $ team. There is no limit on spending for scouting department and player development department and GM, yet we've clearly had inferior talent in those positions. We can hope the new crew is better, but it's going to be years to turn around the young player pipeline. The 2008 WC was built, in large measure, by having a superior pipeline of young players. We've fallen of the development/scouting cliff since then.
Are MacPhail and Klentak the guys to turn this ship around? I doubt it.