LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- About a week has passed since Joe Girardi learned that he would no longer fill out lineup cards with Robinson Cano's name on them, and the construction of those batting orders created an issue in the Yankees' clubhouse last season.
Speaking on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, Girardi did not dispute a published report that suggested Cano had been upset with Girardi for repeatedly batting him second as the Yankees' injury-depleted roster scraped for offensive production.
"There were discussions with a number of my hitters about, 'I'm going to have to ask you to do things that you're not used to doing,'" Girardi said on Tuesday. "That's the bottom line. I talked to Robbie. I told Robbie, 'When I can get you back to third, I'll get you back to third. But right now, I think you hitting second gives us the best chance to win.'"
Cano was the most dangerous hitter on the Yankees' roster, but Girardi chose to bat him second 42 times, hoping to spark the top of the lineup and create runs. A person close to Cano told the New York Post that the All-Star did not like batting second because it reduced his RBI opportunities.
"It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't ideal [because of] all the injuries that we had last year," Girardi said. "We had to make some adjustments. Players want to hit in certain spots. I understand that. There were a lot of times that I would hit second, have a good day, and get moved down to eighth and ninth, and think, 'Gosh.' But I felt it gave us the best chance to win, and that is the reason I did it."
Cano batted third in 110 games and cleanup in eight games. Girardi said that Cano never explicitly said that he had a problem with the arrangement, but word filtered to the manager's office via other avenues.
"He didn't tell me he was unhappy, but there were things that I heard, and I sat down and talked to him," Girardi said. "He was like, 'OK, whatever you need.'"
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said on Tuesday that he has already spoken several times with Cano, calling his new second baseman both a special talent and a team player. But McClendon made it clear that he does not plan on debating lineup spots very often.
"He can bat wherever he wants to bat," McClendon said. "I told him in the office, I said, 'That couch over there is mine and that one's yours. But if you'd like to have that one, you can have that one, too.'"
Ultimately, Cano's future was decided more by the huge gap in contract offers between the Yankees and Mariners than by lineup construction. Girardi said that while the Yankees have already added some thump to help fill the void, Cano will be missed.
"Robbie Cano is not a guy that's easily replaced," Girardi said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed that the club's best offer was seven years at $175 million, a figure that was far exceeded by the Mariners' accepted proposal of a 10-year deal worth $240 million.
"They got a great player. We know it more than anybody," Cashman said. "We had Robbie Cano. He's as good as they come. He was on a Hall of Fame path with us, and hopefully for them he'll continue that Hall of Fame path, because that's what he was for us. He was just a remarkable player."
Cashman said that while the Yankees made a run at Cano this past spring, Cano clearly made the correct decision by waiting for free agency and making the best financial decision for his family.
"Seattle sees the same thing as we do; there's no hidden-ball tricks here," Cashman said. "You've got one of the tremendous players in the game today. He plays hard and he plays all the time and he produces.
"It just comes down to if the numbers are right. He had 240 million reasons why he should go to Seattle, and if I was him, I would have done the same thing."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.