I wouldn't say it's wink-wink. Sure, he has a solid chance of making it, but no more or less so than the kind of guys the Phillies have signed to those deals (Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, Matt Joyce) in the past. It's a smart move for certain players and teams, and it can also get you a better salary than a major league deal (so long as you actually make the team).
Also, you actually can't sign a minor league deal during the lockout if you finished last season on a 40-man roster. Franco was DFA'ed in August. This also means the Phillies can't re-sign the likes of Torreyes or Jankowski for now.