"We continue to talk," he said. "I think with each passing hour at this point, it's less and less likely. I just think it's less likely the further we get this close into it, the greater likelihood that we're going to start with what we have."
Roberts, a two-time All-Star, is regarded as one of Baltimore's best trade chips. The Orioles see him as one of their most productive position players and one of the prime candidates to bring back prospects in their rebuilding movement, and rumors have surrounded his status since December's Winter Meetings.
Chicago has been hot in pursuit of Roberts, and published reports have indicated that they'd be willing to part with prospects like Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson and Ronny Cedeno.
MacPhail, who has already traded veterans Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard, said that he'd hoped to have any trade done by Opening Day and that things become problematic once the regular season starts.
"I don't really like to characterize our discussions with other clubs. I'll leave that to someone else," he said. "I've mentioned to Brian that I think it's unlikely that something happens as well."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has consistently said that he can't imagine his batting order without Roberts, a switch-hitting fixture at the top of the lineup. However, he's also said that he'll do whatever he needs to do.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.